Toyota RAV4 EV

When it comes to battery-electric vehicles, our friend Brad Berman over at Plug In Cars says 40 miles makes all the difference in the world. That's the approximate difference in single-charge range between the battery-electric version of the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Leaf. It's also the difference between the appearance or disappearance of range anxiety.

The 50-percent battery increase has zapped any lingering range anxiety, Berman writes.

The RAV4 EV possesses a 40-kilowatt-hour pack, compared to the 24-kWh pack in the Leaf. After factoring in differences in size, weight and other issues, that means the compact SUV gets about 120 miles on a single charge in realistic driving conditions, compared to about 80 miles in the Leaf. "The 50 percent increase in battery size from Leaf to RAV has zapped any lingering range anxiety," Berman writes.

His observations further feed the notion that drivers need substantial backup juice in order to feel comfortable driving EVs. Late last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), along with the Consumers Union estimated that about 42 percent of US households could drive plug-in vehicles with "little or no change" in their driving habits, and that almost 70 percent of US commuters drive fewer than 60 miles per weekday.

That would imply that a substantial swath of the country should be comfortable using a car like the Leaf as their daily driver - with first-quarter Leaf sales jumping 46 percent from a year before, more Americans certainly are. Still, the implication here is that EV sales will continue to be on the margins until an automaker steps up battery capabilities to 120 or so miles while keeping the price in the $30,000 range. Think that's a reasonable goal to shoot for?
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